Houston PetTalk May 2022

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Emancipet is on a mission to make veterinary care affordable and accessible for everyone. They manage an expanding national network of highquality, low-cost clinics; offer customized training and consulting programs to animal welfare organizations nationwide; and advocate for strategies and public policy that improve the lives of pets in underserved communities. Since 1999, Emancipet has spayed or neutered more than 400,000 dogs and cats. In 2021, they provided more than 230,000 free and low-cost vet visits for pets.

Affordable Pet Care Dr. Holly Putnam, Chief Medical Officer | Emancipet | Emancipet.org


ince the time that dogs and cats were first domesticated, pets have provided people with happiness through companionship and entertainment, as well as support through assistance and protection. This relationship is formally recognized as the human-animal bond and its benefits have been accepted as a factor of human health and well-being. Many pet owners have such a strong bond with their pet that they consider the pet part of their family. As with any family member, being able to provide care for pets can bring emotional and mental comfort and stability to pet owners. However, for many Americans, veterinary care is neither accessible nor affordable. A 2018 survey conducted by the Access to Veterinary Care Coalition (AVCC) indicated that, 1 out of 4 pet owners have experienced barriers to veterinary care. The most reported barrier, regardless of the pet owner’s age or the type of medical care the pet needed, was financial. This is not surprising when consider-



ing that an estimated 29 million dogs and cats live with families participating in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). Other barriers included not knowing where to go for veterinary care, lack of transportation and not having the proper equipment such as leashes or carriers. The veterinary field has recognized the inability to access and afford veterinary care as significant problem. Of the veterinarians who responded to the AVCC survey, 94.9% agreed that all pets deserve some level of veterinary care. Further, 86.7% of veterinarian respondents agreed that not being able to access needed veterinary care affects owner’s emotional and mental health. Research, reports and guides within the veterinary field have further highlighted the extent of the problem, as well as methods to help address the issue with the goal of enabling all veterinary professionals to be able to implement some form of assistance to low-income pet owners. Some examples of successful

measures include strategically placed low cost or free services, reviewing a spectrum of care options with clients, offering payment plans, and employing staff members who are bilingual to help facilitate communication for non-English speaking clients. Additionally, several veterinary schools now offer some form of Access to Care didactic and clinical instruction. Although progress is being made within the veterinary field, much work remains to be done to ensure veterinary care is attainable for every pet within the US. Future efforts will need to focus on continued education and resources within the field, redefining the meaning of medical success for patients, formal support from veterinary medical associations and state veterinary boards, and involvement from professionals in human medicine and public health. Further recognition of the benefits of the human-animal bond within each sector will likely support a continued and collaborative effort to establish attainable veterinary care for every pet.